Squirrel in my garden

Advice – how to live in harmony with a squirrel in my garden?
  • Squirrel in my garden eats bird food
  • Squirrels bury food in my plant pots / lawn

Squirrel eats bird food
Some people don't like the fact that squirrels use bird feeders. There are simple and tested solutions to that. At the beginning however we'd like to say what kinds of "solutions" we discourage:
We definitely discourage "squirrel-proof" type feeders which are ineffective and most of all dangerous for squirrels and various birds. Every year we get hundreds of reports from people who using this type of feeders caused – quite by accident – injuries to wings, legs of birds or squirrels (or animal just stuck in the feeder) which really means slow and cruel death for these animals – do we really want to risk great suffering of injured animals for those few seeds?

The most effective and cheapest solution of this "problem" has been known for many years and requires setting up a separate feeder for squirrels. That in most cases makes squirrels use only their own feeder (if the setup is done correctly, details below) and we can enjoy watching them play around the feeder. It's greater fun than many wildlife TV programs. The feeder can be home made as it's really simple or a ready one can be bought. Seasonal (November – May) cost of feeding 4-5 squirrels is around £20-30. If anyone cannot afford above mentioned feeder and food please contact our editors team and we'll try to organise and send such "kit".
When setting up the feeder it's good to follow some rules that will help avoid the most common mistakes.
1. The feeder has to be placed as close as possible to the tree (ideally at the height above 2 m) that the squirrels use to enter the garden – or "on their way" but in such a way that the animals will have good visibility of the "escape route" from the feeder – and as far away from bird feeder as possible. Squirrels are very intelligent and simply practical. If bird feeders are closer "why would we bother going to the other end of the garden"?
2. First filling of the feeder – how to teach squirrels use their own feeder.
The feeder filled for the first time should be full – so that the cover stays slightly opened. It's also a good idea to put a few walnuts at a time. All that to make the animals see that there is as good food in their feeder as in the bird feeder.
3. Food type – how to do it cheaply, effectively?
Squirrels like other animals (and people) have a taste. If we try to "fool them" by giving them worse quality food than that in bird feeders they will try to fool us.
But there are certain tested ways to lower the cost of food for squirrels as described below. A good way to save on the cost of squirrel food – and what's most important without reducing its nutritional value – is using the following diet (all seeds need to be mixed):
  • 1/3: very cheap – but nutritional – "rodent block"
  • 1/3: very cheap – rich in fats and calcium – sunflower seeds
  • 1/3: hazelnuts in shells rich in calcium (or walnuts, etc. - as a "treat")
This way quite cheaply we can supply the food for the seasonal feeding of 4-5 squirrels.
Squirrels bury food in my plant pots / lawn
The habit of burying seeds among squirrels (mainly greys and European reds) is quite common – thanks to that those beautiful animals play a significant role in forests regeneration although we won't observe that in our gardens (tree saplings are very sensitive in the first years and mostly die after the first grass cutting or plowing)
One of the solutions to this problem is setting aside a place where squirrels can bury their seeds. Such place should be far away from our crops and close to squirrel feeder (or to a point where squirrels enter the garden). Scientific studies have proven that with the abundance of food squirrels bury seeds a few times closer to a "tree" – in this case the feeder – than in a poor crop year. Such separate place for squirrels doesn't have to be big (very often 2-3 bigger rectangular plant pots will be enough), it's important that digging in those pots is easier – "light soil" with no compost – than in the garden patches or in the lawn.

Photo credits
ICSRS would like to thank Bo Chetwyn for allowing her photo to be used in the above article.